Alumni Spotlight: Nicole Haskins

April 2020

Westside Ballet alumna Nicole Haskins gave young dancers insights into her dance performance and choreography career as a part of Westside Ballet’s “Dance Talks” series, which was taken online during the studio shutdown in April 2020.  (Please read Nicole’s full bio below the video link at the bottom of this page.)

She begins by telling the dancers about her formative years at Westside, noting her special love for the Nutcracker. She has danced every role from Fritz to Sugar Plum. In her professional career she also danced Nutcrackers at four other companies. However, to this day, the Westside Nutcracker remains her favorite. As she says, “The simplicity of the Westside Nutcracker gives Tchaikovsky’s music its full value”. Her favorite moment in Westside’s Nutcracker is when the Christmas tree grows in between the party scene and the battle scene. 

Photo by Maximillian Tortoriello

Nicole as Sugarplum in WSB’s The Nutcracker
Photo by Todd Lechtick

Nicole grew up in Venice and graduated from Crossroads High School in Santa Monica. After her time at Westside Nicole performed and choreographed at a professional level. Nicole created pieces for Sacramento Ballet, Richmond Ballet, Smuin Ballet, Dayton Ballet, and Oregon Ballet Theatre. Nicole has created many renowned pieces; she was the winner of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Choreography XX competition and received the New York Choreographic Institute Initiative (an award affiliated with New York City Ballet) for her piece with Richmond Ballet. 

She then discusses her time at Sacramento Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Washington Ballet, and Smuin Contemporary Ballet. Nicole truly attributes her choreography beginnings to the opportunities presented to her at Westside by Yvonne Mounsey. She further recalls her younger years at Westside when she would participate in the summer program. Caprice Walker, Director of the Children’s Program, would encourage Nicole to create dances for her friends and perform them at the end of summer performance. She would create her own renditions of ballets such as Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. She emphasizes that Westside provided these opportunities for her to choreograph, and at the time she didn’t know that, in taking advantage of these occasions, she was creating the foundation for the rest of her career.  

Photo by Keith Sutter

The students watching the talk asked questions such as, “How do you stay excited about the music you chose?” and “How do you manage time?” Nicole told the dancers that it’s ok to not love everything you create, or want to switch music. Choreography is a skill that develops over time, and she reminds the students to “remember that day one isn’t how the dance will end up, to persevere, and to get everything out at the beginning”. She compares choreography to writing; sometimes you have to get all your thoughts out on a page and then shape and edit later.  

Throughout this talk you will hear Alumna Nicole Haskins give inspiring advice to the young dancers at Westside. She tells stories of her younger years as a dancer and connects with each student watching making sure to answer and relate to every question presented.  

Nicole with Westside Ballet students at Yvonne Mounsey’s Centennial Gala

Watch Nicole’s Dance Talk here:

Nicole Haskins Choreography Chat

Join Westside Ballet Alumna Nicole Haskins talk with Westside’s current level 5-7 students about her dance and choreography journey.

Photo by Tatiana Wills

Born and raised in Venice Beach, California, alumna Nicole Haskins began her ballet training at the age of three at the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica under the direction of Yvonne Mounsey and Rosemary Valaire. It was during her 15 years there that Nicole’s enthusiasm for choreography emerged.

Ms. Haskins went on to dance professionally with Sacramento Ballet, Washington Ballet, and Smuin Contemporary American Ballet in San Francisco where she is currently in her sixth and final season. While dancing professionally, Ms. Haskins has been commissioned to choreograph for Sacramento Ballet, Richmond Ballet, Smuin Ballet, Dayton Ballet, and Oregon Ballet Theater, as well as many ballet schools across the country.

Her choreography has been presented at the Los Angeles Dance Invitational, the McCallum Theater’s Dancing Under The Stars Choreographic Competition, and well as numerous Regional Dance America Festivals. In 2017, she was one of the winners of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Choreography XX competition and received the New York Choreographic Institute (affiliated with the New York City Ballet) Initiative for her premiere with Richmond Ballet. 

Ms. Haskins danced in Balanchine’s delightful Harlequinade Pas de Deux, with resident guest artist Evan Swenson, for Westside’s Centennial Gala. (JUNE 2019)

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